Sheldon Keefe addressed the media after his team’s 5-4 overtime win over the Florida Panthers which improved the Leafs’ record to 27-11-7.
On the odd nature of the game:
There was a lot going on in the game for sure. Happy our guys stuck with it and found a way to get our points.
On the team’s slow start:
I don’t know how slow the start was. Obviously, they scored first. I thought we started decently. They score — that wasn’t good — and power plays took over from there. There wasn’t a lot of flow or rhythm in the game.
Once the game settled down and got to five-on-five, I thought we did a pretty good job. We didn’t give up very much at all. We generated quite a bit.
Especially in the first half, our top two lines are, by and large, on the power play all the time. The other two lines are playing most of the five-on-five minutes. I thought those guys were actually quite good. We were using them as examples of how we needed to play to get our legs going in the game at even strength.
In the third period, everybody was sort of doing that. Willy’s goal to tie the game is a great play by Mitch — he delivers it well — but he just went to the dirty areas and got rewarded.
I liked how our guys stayed with it. It was just a huge power-play goal for us at the end of the second period. That is the game-changer. We tried to use that to fuel us to have the life and energy to come back on home ice.
I thought all four lines and all six D did a good job for us. Sammy was really solid — not a lot of action, but some difficult saves in there against very good players. He was really good.
On the decision to pull Matt Murray after the fourth Panthers goal:
When I break down the goals… On the shorthanded goal against, he makes a save on the breakaway, and there is not a lot he can do — or anything he can do — on the second shot. The goal that I ended up pulling him on is a big-time shot by Barkov.
For me, I am more pulling the goalie for our team. We just needed to change something. You can’t give up four goals on eight shots no matter how you shake it out. That was really it.
If you look at the actual goals, I didn’t think any of them were too weak or egregious or anything like that. There was some traffic and things involved inside each of those goals, but clearly, we needed to change something.
Sammy went in and did a really good job. When we had a couple of breakdowns, he made big saves, got the crowd into it, and gave the guys reason to keep pushing. And we did.
On William Nylander’s big night after a slow stretch in which he suggested he wasn’t shooting enough:
I don’t think he had been skating enough or shooting enough. They go hand-in-hand. Both things are signs that he is engaged in the game and going.
I was hoping that the power-play goal we scored at the end of the second period was really going to give life and energy to our top six — in particular the Matthews line, Willy included. I thought about mixing it up again. I just wanted to give those guys a chance to get going, and hopefully, they could feed off of it.
I thought Willy was really good in the third period. He was really skating and challenging the net. The speed got him the penalty shot, and then he goes to the net and gets an ugly one. He scores a world-class finish on the overtime goal.
He was the difference-maker for us there, and that is more the player he has been for us all season.
On starting David Kampf in overtime for a quick shift before getting off the ice:
We had been trying to change things up in the last few overtimes with Kampf and two defensemen. With Brodie and Sandin out, I didn’t think we had as many options on the backend, so we went with two forwards to start.
That wasn’t necessarily the plan. It was the read and timing of it. Kampf just thought it was a good chance to change. It is not a faceoff-and-get-off situation. He built some speed and was going to get involved in the play initially, but once it settled and we were into the 15-20 second mark, it was just trying to get Auston out at a time when the opposition’s tank is a little bit empty.
Credit to our guys. They really bought into some changes and a different approach to our overtime. It seems to be working well for us. They showed great patience again tonight and then built a good sequence to get the winning goal.
On the team’s response to physical games of late:
I think they have been fine. This was another very physical game for sure. We have a lot of respect for their offense and how they are going to come at us. There is a lot of skill over there. They move the puck very well.
The physicality piece is something I think they turned up a notch or two tonight. I thought our guys dealt with it well. Whether it was the stuff during the play or stuff after whistles, I thought our guys handled it well.
They also handled the emotions of the penalties and the oddities of the game well. I thought they dealt with it well and stayed with it.
You never want to get behind like we did, but if you look at the game big picture and step back a bit, the power play was not nearly good enough for us early in the game. It ends up getting us a huge goal and turning the game. I thought we had a really good third period.
On the Radko Gudas charging call leading to the power-play goal late in the second period:
Sometimes things even themselves out. Aston-Reese took a minor on Gudas for roughing when I think they could’ve easily called the penalty for the way that he hits Engvall. That is a pretty dangerous hit that doesn’t get called. Sometimes things equal themselves out in our game.